A vibrantly alive Jesus, complete with homoerotic desires, emerges from the poetry of Brian Day in his new book "Conjuring Jesus."
From the very first poem, Day delves into the bisexuality that Jesus inherited from his ancestor King David. Some of the most wonderful poems present what I call a "gay Jesus." He bonds with his male Beloved, sits beside a near-naked young man, gets trapped in gay love triangle with Judas, and endures the humiliation of being called "faggot." In "Better Not to Marry" (reprinted below), Jesus praises the "unmarrying brand of men" that God created.
Day, a Toronto teacher, conjures up a Jesus who is both sexual and spiritual, "wholly versatile" and "an unscrupulous party boy" who eats and drinks with sinners. Day distills the essence of Jesus in a sensuous, playful way that remains true to the human spirit and to the spirit of the gospels. His poems liberate the soul with a fresh, unrestricted view of Jesus.
The 49 short poems in this slim volume work both as literature and as devotional reading for the open-minded. They are arranged to follow Jesus from his baptism through his death and resurrection, with parables and miracles sprinkled throughout.
Like Day, I wrote about a queer Christ in my "Jesus in Love" novels. I know how hard it is to "conjure" a Jesus who is erotically alive while transcending all categories of male or female, gay or straight, God or human. I appreciate the deft style with which Day accomplishes the task. For example, in "Jesus, Versatile" he manages to convey Jesus' own ecstatic union with God, "entering, entered, everywhere at once."
Day's best poems, and there are many, focus on emotion and embodiment. Readers will either love or hate the few poems that stray into other territory, such as equating Jesus with Mohammad and Buddha. I personally enjoyed the poem where Jesus and Krishna "meet as bridegrooms long promised to each other." I look forward to his next project, which will blend homoerotic and interfaith themes.
Since Day writes so well about men, perhaps it is inevitable that some of his poems about women are less satisfying. I do object to his repeated and distracting use of "man" to refer to all people.
I read "Conjuring Jesus" at bedtime, a few poems per night. They sweetly opened my heart before I closed my eyes for a good night's sleep. It's also suitable to read "Conjuring Jesus" right alongside the Bible, thanks to a list of Biblical references for each poem at the end of the book.
Day writes of a Jesus who offers "the pleasures of sliding into our own promised land -- this delicious, indiscriminate view of heaven." I recommend that you taste heaven now by reading "Conjuring Jesus."